PORTLAND, Ore. — Governor Kate Brown announced on Wednesday that Oregon's next steps will include a requirement to wear face coverings in public for some counties following a spike in coronavirus cases over the past several weeks.
Brown and officials from the Oregon Health Authority issued a "yellow light" last Friday for several counties that were on the brink of entering a new phase of reopening. The Governor's Wednesday statement indicated that the new plans would include a resolution for some of those counties.
“I instituted the statewide pause because of the rising number of cases in both rural and urban communities," Brown said. "I did this to give public health experts time to assess what factors are driving the spread of the virus and make adjustments to our reopening strategy."
The Oregon Health Authority has spent the intervening days looking at data from around the state, including the source of growth in new cases and hospitalizations, the results of contact tracing, and other metrics. Brown said that she had also been consulting with health experts, business leaders, and local elected officials.
Starting June 24 — the same day that the Oregon legislature returns for a special session — Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Hood River, Marion, Polk, and Lincoln counties will require face coverings for people while at indoor public spaces. This includes grocery stores and other businesses.
Multnomah County will be finally be approved to move into Phase I this Friday.
"While Multnomah County has seen an increase in new cases recently, the county has not experienced an uptrend in new hospital admissions, and overall hospitalizations remain well within capacity," Brown said.
According to Brown's statement, some counties will be grouped together as regional units for future reopening decisions. Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties — which encompass the Portland metro area — will be one such unit. Marion and Polk counties will also be treated as a unit, which includes the city of Salem.
"Both of these regions include a highly-connected urban area, making it difficult to monitor the disease based solely on the contours of county jurisdictional lines," Brown said.
The entire tri-county region will remain in Phase 1 for at least 21 days after June 19 before the three counties together will become eligible for Phase 2, Brown continued.
"I know this impacts communities and businesses in Clackamas and Washington counties but, as we reopen our state, we must recognize how interconnected the metro area is," Brown said. “The next few weeks will be difficult, and we will be monitoring the data regularly. We are much better prepared than we were in early March. We have increased PPE, much more widespread testing, and many more contact tracers
“However, if hospitalizations spike too rapidly, if the capacity of our health care system is threatened, we will be forced to revert to stricter rules.
“Our entire ability to reopen and stay open is dependent on whether each of us follows basic health and safety protections. Stay home if you feel sick, wear a face covering, keep six feet of distance, avoid crowds, and wash your hands regularly. We truly are all in this together.”